Now that everyone in the country has had a good, prolonged look at Denard Robinson the speedster, the elusive runner, and the accurate-enough-to-make-you-pay passer, it is time to introduce the nation to his other side. Denard Robinson as William Jennings Bryan, the orator.
According to multiple accounts from Michigan players, Robinson took the floor in the locker room after the disappointing loss to Michigan State, and the Wolverines watched him mature from a quarterback into a team leader as the words flowed from his mouth.
The normally quiet and reserved Robinson called on his inner fire and brimstone, and impressed the heck out of his teammates. They said his speech was stunning, packed with emotion, and it earned him a ton of respect from the rest of the Wolverines.
The Michigan players said Robinson did not assign blame, but instead talked about how bad it felt to lose, and how things had not gone at all according to plan. After playing his poorest game of the season, Robinson was visibly shaken and upset, but not negative, the Michigan players said.
After throwing three interceptions and being held under 100 yards rushing for the first time this season, there was no self pity in Robinson's words. He expressed a hunger to get back to winning, and his words came with a volume and tenor the Michigan team had not seen from Robinson prior to this.
As a sophomore, Robinson had deferred to his senior teammates over the first half of the season, and things were going fine so there was no reason to deviate from that plan. After the lousy showing against rival Michigan State, the Wolverines heard from their best player and most potent offensive weapon, and what he told them in very clear terms was that he did not want to see losing become a trend.
--QB Denard Robinson needs just nine rushing yards to have 1,000 for the season.
--Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez is 13-20 against ranked teams over the course of his career, but just 1-7 against the top 25 while at Michigan.
--Michigan quarterbacks are completing better than 70 percent of their passes through six games (70.3 pct., 104-of-148).
--The Wolverines have scored 16 touchdowns this season on drives that have lasted two minutes or less. Eight times Michigan put together scoring drives that took a minute or less.
SERIES HISTORY: Michigan leads 40-11-4 (last meeting, 2009, 30-28 Iowa).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Denard Robinson express was slowed, but not derailed, in the loss to Michigan State. The Wolverines will need more balance against the Hawkeyes, more throws to the tight end and more quick pass patterns. The protection has to give Robinson adequate time to avoid the mistakes he was pressed into last week. If the Iowa front gets its hands on him, Michigan won't like the results.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: A thoroughly disgusted coach Rich Rodriguez has hinted that wholesale changes might be in store for the Wolverines, who sport the Big Ten's worst defense. Iowa has a savvy veteran QB in Ricky Stanzi, and he could have a field day with the Michigan defense, if it continues to suffer from missed assignments and blown coverages. Michigan has to get pressure on Stanzi, or face an abundance of headaches.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our young guys are going to make mistakes, but we have to get better fundamentally. At some point, we have to make sure we don't forget the fundamental parts of playing football." -- Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez on dealing with the excess of youth in his program
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: No. 14 Iowa at No. 24 Michigan, Oct. 16 -- The Wolverines (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) continue their run through the Big Ten gauntlet, facing a very difficult Hawkeyes team right after losing to unbeaten Michigan State. A win is crucial so Michigan can avoid the hint of a repeat of last year's Big Ten skid.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The telling matchup when the Wolverines face Iowa will come up front, with Michigan on offense. The Michigan offensive linemen and tight ends will need to control Iowa's extremely talented defensive front, led by 6-4, 285-pound DE Adrian Clayborn. If Iowa dominates this battle, it dominates the game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
WR Roy Roundtree -- If the Wolverines want to take some of the offensive pressure off QB Denard Robinson, then Roundtree is the first option for relief. He had close to 100 receiving yards per game over the final four games of 2009, and this season is leading Michigan with 31 receptions for 385 yards and two touchdowns.
OL Stephen Schilling -- The Outland Trophy candidate is the plow that clears the way for QB Denard Robinson. Schilling has a team-leading 42 starts over the past four seasons, missing just one game in 2008 due to injury.
QB Denard Robinson -- The speedster from Florida is second in the nation with 165.7 yards rushing per game, and second in total offense with 369 yards per game. With the ball in his hands, every play is a potential home run.
LB Obi Ezeh -- As this senior leader goes, so go the Wolverines more often than not. He is the team's active career leader with 274 tackles, and has recorded nine games in his career with 10 or more stops.
--WR Martavious Odoms broke his foot in the loss to Michigan State and will be out indefinitely. Odoms had 15 catches for 214 yards on the season. He is replaced by Junior Hemingway.
--C David Molk suffered an ankle sprain against the Spartans, but is expected to play when the Wolverines host Iowa.
--DT Mike Martin sprained an ankle in the loss to Michigan State, but is expected to play against Iowa.
--RB Michael Shaw missed the Indiana game with a knee injury, but returned against Michigan State and rushed four times for 29 yards.
--RB Fitzgerald Toussaint is expected to miss his sixth game of the year as a shoulder injury keeps him sidelined.
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